On the civic commitment of professions - Interview with Professor José-Félix Lozano

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Within the framework of the IX Congress on Ethics Education "Ethics of Democracy" held in Cali, Colombia, Professor José-Félix Lozano - Instituto Ingenio Universidad Politécnica de Valencia (CSIC-UPV) - shares with us some reflections on the civic commitment of professions.

Why is ethics important for people's professional activity?

A profession is an activity that provides a specific service to society. When someone decides to study a profession, they must be clear about the objective of that profession, and what its purpose is. All the benefits obtained as a result of that decision are secondary; they do not legitimize the activity, and they should not come before the purpose of the profession. Often, students find it difficult to define what the purpose of their profession is and I think it is our duty as teachers to remind them of this issue and encourage self-awareness.

The commitment of a professional is not only with those who receive the service he or she offers, there is a civic commitment. This means that from the professional sphere, people must contribute to building a fairer society, one that aspires to a better life for people. The idea that the public is built only from the political sphere is a mistake; it is also done from the private sphere of professional practice.

What do you think is the key to training responsible professionals?

I believe that the key lies in integrating two visions that seem to be opposed, but are not. On the one hand, the dominant vision in professions in general is an instrumentalist vision, where the priority is to be objective, scientific, and technical, and where the more focused we are on the object, the better professionals we will be. On the other hand, in ethics we talk about people with will and with empathy; we talk about how our actions have an impact on other people. In the scientific fields that are usually related to a profession, it seems most rational for each person to pursue their own interests. On the contrary, in ethics, we aspire to a full life and the construction of a just society. If we consider the parameters used to measure success, we could say that in science the metrics are efficiency, efficacy and profitability. In ethics, they are dignity and justice.

Although both visions seem to go in opposite directions, I am convinced that this is not the case, because it is undeniable that educating is forming people. That is to say, professional training is deeply linked to the person, to the subject. In order to train responsible professionals, I believe there are three levels to take into account: the epistemological level, the pedagogical level and the institutional level.

How can teachers contribute to bringing about change?

I believe that teachers should enhance the moral sensitivity of students: generate awareness of the impact that decision-making has on ethical aspects, on other people, on the environment, etc. Also, contribute to developing their moral creativity, that is, to look for creative solutions that integrate the human aspect.

At the same time, I believe that as teachers we can also generate a space to reflect on mental models, to question the narratives that are presented to us. I think that fostering self-awareness is very important. For example, in business schools, the dominant focus is often on the technical, quantitative, and instrumental. There is a tendency to want to separate, for example, emotions from technical decisions, as if emotions were something negative and annoying. In addition to the fact that this separation is impossible, because human beings are essentially emotional beings, it is an idea that only deprives people of one of their most valuable capacities, that of empathy, the ability to reflect on the impacts and consequences of our decisions with an integrated view of the different dimensions: economic, political, social, environmental, etc.

Faced with universal challenges, there is only room for a universalist ethic that aspires to the universal good, which does not mean that we do not have to work from the individual, local, etc., towards the general. Our responsibility is to try to build a more just world where fewer people suffer. That is what is worth fighting for.

The Congress, held from October 13 to 15, 2022, was organized by the Network for Ethical and Citizenship Education, with the support of The ICESI University, the University Institution Antonio José Camacho and the Catholic University Foundation Lumen Gentium were the host institutions of this meeting.

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